A surprising, new study found that 15 to 25 percent of children report experiencing chronic pain. And parents are seeking non-drug, complementary/alternative medicine (CAM) treatments more and more for their children.
The new government commission on the opioid drug crisis could learn a thing or two from parents’ willingness to explore non-drug options for pain management. (I’ll explain more about that in a moment.)
For this new study, researchers analyzed data from the 2012 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) to estimate patterns, predictors and benefits of CAM use among children ages four to 17 years old with and without chronic pain conditions in the U.S.
Among children with chronic pain conditions, 21 percent used alternative and natural non-drug approaches. By contrast, only eight percent of children without chronic pain used natural, non-drug therapies.
The most common forms of non-drug therapies for pain in children were dietary and herbal remedies (47 percent) and bodywork therapies like chiropractic and massage (46 percent).
Girls were more likely than boys to use non-drug therapies. (That same pattern holds true among adult women and men.)
Plus, children in families with higher incomes were more likely to use CAM approaches. This finding makes sense, as insurance companies typically don’t cover them. Ironically, the Affordable Care Act requires everyone to have increasingly expensive insurance (unless you are covered by a government subsidy, which is just another hidden tax on everyone else). But it doesn’t cover what people really want and need!
Furthermore, it’s worth noting that children with more medical conditions actually use fewer drugs. In fact, children with four or more medical conditions were more likely to use non-drug therapies.
I was glad to see this finding — as the more drugs you take, the more the toxic side effects add up, causing even more problems of their own.
In fact, research shows taking multiple drugs (polypharmacy) causes illness in older patients. But it appears to even affect children. (For more about the dangers of polypharmacy, see this month’s November 2017 issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter. If you’re not yet a subscriber, now is the perfect time to get started.)
New government commission on pain misses mark
Clearly, the new Commission on Combatting Drug Addiction and the Opiate Crisis could learn from this study on children. The President tapped Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey to chair the commission and tasked him to formulate solutions to the national opioid crisis.
A few years back, Governor Christie appointed me to his special commission to review abuses in prescribing testosterone drugs to young, healthy male government employees. We did a lot of good work cleaning up the abuse of these drugs in New Jersey. But Governor Christie didn’t contact me this time around to contribute to this new panel on the problems of the abuse of pain drugs.
Last week, the commission released its final recommendations. Unfortunately, they seem to be focusing on developing additional drugs to replace opioid drugs, rather than look at the many, effective, non-drug options for pain.
Without a doubt, something needs to be done, as experts blame opiate drug abuse for the unprecedented, rapid mortality rate increase over the past 15 years among white, middle-class, middle-aged adults. Before this point, modern history has never seen mortality rates actually increase in any population group.
Of course, this shortening of lifespan among white men ironically achieves one of the government’s narrow-sighted goals…
As you may recall, I helped develop the government’s Healthy People 2000 and 2010 national health goals. It was largely a publicity stunt by government health bureaucrats. And the commission set a “flagship goal” to reduce “health disparities” between different population groups. But we wanted to see reduction in disparities by reducing mortality in other population groups, not by increasing it among white, middle-class Americans! (Sounds like a typical government program.)
What government officials need to realize is that acknowledging and publicizing all of the effective, non-drug alternatives for pain is long overdue. In fact, according to a recent survey, about 40 percent of adults now seek out non-drug approaches for pain. Later this month I will report on a brand-new review showing unprecedented advances in acupuncture for chronic pain.
But until the government decides to use a dose of common sense, it’s up to you to take your health into your own hands.
You can learn about the numerous non-drug alternatives for pain treatment in my book,
Overcoming Acute and Chronic Pain. You can also follow my drug-free plan for easing and eliminating arthritis pain in my new online learning tool, the Arthritis Relief and Reversal Protocol.
“Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use by Children With Pain in the United States,” Acad Pediatr 2017 Sep – Oct;17(7):785-793